After 86 years of providing safe accommodation for young people, The Irish Youth Hostel Association will rebrand this year as An Aosta, which translates to “The Older”. After several difficult years, through recessions and depressions, An Óige has made this decision in an effort to cater exclusively to the over 35s market.
An Óige’s current CEO, David Owens, spoke to shocked members at a recent An Óige Conference to assure them the hostels will remain open. Speaking to those assembled, Mr. Owens said “We now plan on offering discounts to those of pensionable age. Combined with their free travel cards, this should enable many older people to enjoy the sights and sounds they have had the opportunity to explore their entire lives. It also ensures they will have access to the Irish countryside for the rest of their lives”.
Mr. Owens also addressed concerns that the organisation is abandoning its ethos. “Preposterous! We’re simply changing the focus. We’re still focusing on young people but the new target audience just happen to have much more life experience. They’re young at heart! Young people cannot afford to travel anyway. Bus and rail prices have sky rocketed in the last 10 years. The reduction in routes has done them no favours, not to mention the increases in insurance and car tax, which prices them out of getting their own cars. As well as that the youth market is almost non-existent, as they cannot pull their noses out of their phones. Why would we cater to a section of society that refuses to leave their couches, let alone their home town?”
Along with this change of focus the conference also voted on a number of age sensitive motions to guide the organisation in the future. An Aosta will only employ staff aged 35 years or older. It has placed a network wide ban on Wi-Fi while also rolling back its Wicklow-based conservation efforts. A standard noise limit for hostels after 8pm was also agreed upon.
Darragh Miller, the current Chairperson of An Óige, is twenty six and was understandably upset by this change. “I have enjoyed my time with An Óige, but our members have spoken. Despite our best efforts, young people seem reluctant to travel. Our older members lead hikes, run volunteer hostels and want young people to be involved. They may not know how to reach young people but they have been trying. Many have even created facebook profiles. What more do young people want from them? Without these older people, An Óige could have folded in the last decade but they kept it open for young people. They deserve to be rewarded and, seeing as young people don’t want to travel, this was the logical way to recognise their service”.
Mr. Miller went on to outline some insights as to why young people don’t travel. “Personally, I blame the parents. We have a generation of helicopter parents who refuse to leave their kids out of their sight. And then the same parents wonder why their kids never move out, can’t wash their own clothes and keep asking them for money. The parents of this country have to accept that young people are flawed because parents failed, not young people!”
Mr. Miller and numerous full time staff members at An Aosta will now have to find new employment in a jobs market that, despite governmental assurances, is little better than it was five years ago. Kate Cowan (26) is the deputy marketing manager at An Óige’s head office and faces an unpleasant return to unemployment. She had this to say “The Irish Government has spent millions attracting tourists to this country and as usual they have ignored their own young people. It would be great if we all had secure jobs, the ability to pay mortgages and pensions. That’s all gone now. Young people are either in education, trying to build their CV’s or working full time to support themselves. Its all well and good naming Donegal the coolest place on Earth but it’s no use to young people if it takes them three days to get there. No wonder we are all on city breaks around Europe!”
Colin Keane, also 26 and a head office employee, lays the blame squarely at the feet of younger generations. “Young people have lost an incredible resource simply through misdirected effort. There is a real anger out there among younger generations but instead of using that anger to change the world, they make memes and prefer to savage people who ruins their Snapchat streak. They won’t explore their backyard but will run to Spain or Thailand the first chance they get. The very same people will salivate over a Welcome to Ireland video and plaster it across social media. We see the beauty, use it to bring people here but never explore it ourselves. There is huge pressures to move away from Ireland because of work or because Ireland is awful. It’s not awful at all, it’s fantastic! You don’t have to leave to make something of yourself. With enough brains and balls you can make it here!”
While there may be anger from the staff who must now leave the organisation, those remaining are cautiously optimistic about the rebranding. Marketing Manager Roy Murray (48), remarked “At least older people understand how to make a booking. I’m sick of non-stop vague emails from young people. No matter how many times I tell them the price they always act amazed, saying things like “That price is lit” and “lol jk, I’ll defo take them beds”. It’s like they’re speaking another language entirely! Seriously, they forced us to do this really.”
While this is undoubtedly a monumental change for An Óige, the future looks bright for An Aosta. More and more older people are travelling to Ireland. With secured incomes from renting homes out, state pensions and permanent job positions, the grey market is one which makes sense for An Aosta. They are the only ones with the free time to travel Ireland. As David Owens said “Young people are coming into a world that is more changeable and volatile than we have seen in the 86 years An Óige has been operating. How can they be a reliable market when they have so little money, so little will to explore Ireland and take so many selfies? Old is gold and we’re looking for gold.”
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